Spider Veins and Varicose Veins: What’s the Difference?

When contrasting spider veins vs.

varicose veins, you encounter both similarities and differences. They’re both embarrassing blemishes on your skin. They both make you appear older than you are. And both conditions develop when your veins don’t function properly.

Your arteries take oxygenated blood away from your heart, and your veins bring back the deoxygenated blood. A system of valves within your veins ensures this unidirectional flow. The valves only allow the blood to move one way, back toward your heart and lungs. When they malfunction, your blood begins to pool, causing the veins to swell. In time, they become large enough to be visible through your skin.


Your body has both deep and superficial veins. The deep veins transport the blood in your legs back to your heart, while the superficial veins carry blood away from skin, fat and muscle tissues to your deep veins.

Both spider veins and varicose veins are damaged superficial veins. The team at the Varicose Vein Center of New Jersey have experience treating both conditions.

The Main Differences of Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins

You may use the terms interchangeably to describe these unwelcome blemishes on your skin. But while they share many similarities, it’s their significant differences that matter. In general, spider veins are a milder form of varicose veins, and some of the most identifiable differences include:

  • Size. This is the most identifiable difference between the two. Varicose veins are 1 to 3mm in size. Spider veins commonly measure less than 1mm in size.
  • Color. Spider veins and varicose veins have different colors when seen through the skin. Varicose veins appear greenish-blue, while spider veins can be either red, blue or even purple.
  • Appearance. Varicose veins look like corded, twisted veins that are often swollen or bulging. Spider veins are fine and thin. They derive their name from the spider web-like pattern they usually display on your skin.
  • Location. Varicose veins tend to develop in your calves and thighs, but they can sometimes appear on your arms and hands as well. Spider veins can appear anywhere on your body, but they show up most frequently on your legs and face — especially around your cheeks and nose.

Causes of Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins

Although spider veins and varicose veins can develop at any age, there is a direct correlation between aging and the appearance of both types of problem veins. As you age, your skin loses elasticity and becomes thinner. Simultaneously, your vein valves begin to fail, and the walls of your veins weaken, causing a condition known as venous insufficiency.

Other factors that lead to vein problems include:

  • Genetics. These conditions tend to run in the family. If your parents or siblings suffer from spider veins or varicose veins, you are more likely to get them at some point in your life.
  • Obesity. When you’re carrying extra weight, you put additional strain on your circulatory system. Your vein valves work harder and suffer more wear and tear.
  • Inertia. If you work at a job that demands long periods of either sitting or standing, your blood circulation suffers. Veins have trouble transporting blood when the body remains in the same position.
  • Blood clots. While rare, varicose veins can be a result of blood clots. This is a condition that requires medical attention to resolve.
  • Gender. Varicose veins and spider veins aren’t unusual in men, but women suffer in far greater numbers. In addition, pregnancy often causes temporary vein problems. Even women who don’t give birth have greater hormonal vacillations than men. Dr. Dmitry Gorelik at the Varicose Vein Center of New Jersey specializes in treating women with varicose veins.

Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins Symptoms

The symptoms of these two conditions differ in several fundamental ways. The color, size, location and shape of the veins are most easily distinguished visually. When comparing spider veins vs. varicose veins symptoms, consider these characteristics:

  • Spider veins aren’t usually accompanied by any significant symptoms other than their appearance. You may experience some mild discomfort or a burning sensation, but these symptoms aren’t ubiquitous.
  • Varicose veins, while generally asymptomatic, can be the source of other telltale signs, such as:
    • A dull ache
    • Heaviness in your legs
    • Itchiness
    • Veins that are warm to the touch
    • Swollen feet and ankles

Treatment for Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins

Multiple treatments exist for both spider veins and varicose veins, but they’re different procedures. After a thorough physical examination and review of your health history, Dr. Gorelik recommends the most effective and least invasive treatment available to address your problem veins. Treatments you may need for spider veins vs. varicose veins include:


To fight varicose veins, you may need:

In some cases, varicose veins lead to venous stasis ulcers. Having your problem veins checked by specialist like Dr. Dmitry Gorelik can help you prevent this condition. And he’s an expert in solving vein issues in women. The Varicose Vein Center of New Jersey has three convenient locations in northern NJ: Parsippany, Old Bridge and Sayreville.

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